In the vast world of rock music, Arthur Brown is an example of someone who should’ve been bigger. While some might see him as a one-hit-wonder for the 1968 hit single “Fire,” Brown has had a five decade career in the music business. Just recently, Esoteric and Cherry Red Records released a new box set devote to Brown’s band Kingdom Come. The box set, Eternal Messenger, is a five disc set consisting of the band’s three studio albums remastered, along with two disc of bonus tracks. Eternal Messenger is another great set from Cherry Red and a must-have for any prog rock enthusiast.
A Little History
In 1968, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown had a massive hit on their hands with the single “Fire.” As a result, the band’s self-titled debut album was a success. However, there were tensions within the band. By 1969, the band had split up. While keyboardist Vincent Crane and drummer Carl Palmer would go on to form Atomic Rooster, Arthur Brown was in a few bands prior to forming Kingdom Come. The band came together in 1970, signing to Polydor Records not too long afterwards. The band would go through several line up changes- with Brown and guitarist Andy Dalby being the two mainstays.
While the Crazy World were a psychedelic rock band, Kingdom Come would see Brown diving into the waters of progressive and space rock. In their time together, Kingdom Come would release three studio albums, all of which follow concepts, themes and/or deep philosophical meanings. Eternal Messenger comes with those three albums, along with two discs of bonus tracks.
Given that this is a set devoted to albums, I’ll be doing this review album-by-album.
Galactic Zoo Dossier (1971)
Serving as Brown’s follow up to the debut Crazy World album, Galactic Zoo Dossier is a far cry from its predecessor. The album seems to be based around the idea of the human race being kept in cages like animals, obviously serving as commentary on the Vietnam War at that time. The album is filled with splendid prog rock riffs and/or instrumentation, with some glimmers of the psychedelia from Crazy World. Production wise, the band went all out in setting the atmosphere of this album, which takes the listener on a space odyssey. If any downsides, the album does get repetitive in parts. Even then, Zoo manages to be a very creative effort from Brown and company.
Highlights: Internal Messenger, Metal Monster, Sunrise, Space Plucks, No Time
Kingdom Come (1972)
Released not too long after Zoo, the band’s sophomore effort is another conceptual effort of sorts . According to the liner notes, Brown’s intention was to make an album about how humans are the captains of their own ships floating along the sea. While that is a clever idea for a album, the songs on Kingdom Come come more across as a hodgepodge of ideas rolled into one. If anything, the album seems to be following the journey of a sailor who runs off with a traffic light- only to be captured by a mad scientist teacher. While a confusing narrative, the album can be appreciated for the complex prog rock approach found on Zoo. While it might be the weaker of the three album, this isn’t a bad album.
Highlights: Love is a Spirit That Will Never Die, Traffic Light Song, The Experiment, The Hymn
Of Kingdom Come’s three albums, their final album Journey is the one that avid music listeners keep coming back to. Given that the band didn’t have a drummer at that point in time, Brown decided to use a drum machine- making Journey the first album to do so. Listening to the album, it’s amazing that this album exists: this pre-dates new wave and synth pop. While the first two albums were more concept/themed based, Journey is a more spiritual and cosmic experience similar to the work of Hawkwind. While some listeners might be put off by the lack of an actual drummer, Brown and Kingdom Come really took advantage of the technology, thus making this a unique album.
Highlights: Time Captives, Triangles, Spirit of Joy, Come Alive
The two bonus discs featured in this set consist of a jam session and BBC recordings. The fourth disc, Jam- The First Sessions, are taken from the pre Galactic Zoo Dossier era in the band’s career. Given that these are taken from a jam session, the music gets boring pretty quickly. Still, avid music listeners should be happy with its inclusion given it hasn’t been released since 1995. The BBC Sessions disc is much better, with most of the sessions coming from previous reissues of these three albums. Given that these are from BBC Radio broadcasts, the quality for each song is different. While there might be some listeners not interested in these bonus discs, Cherry Red’s efforts in making this collection complete should be applauded.
Overall, Eternal Messenger is another great box set from Cherry Red Records. This is a great set of music and it serves as the perfect introduction to Kingdom Come’s music. Along with the albums is a 48 page booklet, with liner notes written by Malcolm Dome. While Arthur Brown is the lone interviewee in the essay, the liner notes give the listener the entire Kingdom Come story. If you already own these three albums, you might want to consider repurchasing them given that the albums are newly remastered. From the music to the overall package, Eternal Messenger is a must-buy for all prog rock lovers.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.